TX school official says Tolerance Week too gay

Superintendent Steve Murray

A school superintendent in Bastrop, Texas, reportedly has canceled Tolerance Week activities planned by two high school Gay Straight Alliances after his office received complaints. The Tolerance Week activities, including a dance that had been scheduled for Friday night, were planned by GSAs at Cedar Creek and Bastrop high schools. However, Bastrop HS junior Lilly Dunn told KVUE that the groups found out Monday the superintendent had canceled them:

After three weeks of planning, Lilly and her classmates were ready to go. Then they got a text message Monday night.

“What we were told by our president was that the superintendent had said he thought it was just a dance for gay people, and that’s why he canceled it,” said Lilly.

KVUE News tried to talk with Superintendent Steve Murray, but he is out of town. The principal of Cedar Creek High School, Russell Sassin, did agree to speak with KVUE, but only over the phone.

He says the superintendent called him Monday afternoon after his office received complaints and concerns about the events.

“He was asking questions about it, and the decision was made that we would postpone all activities, not cancel them, but postpone them, until I could get more information together to give to the superintendent’s office,” Sassin said.

Principal Sassin says he expects the dance and Tolerance Week to be rescheduled to sometime in March. Still, it’s leaving some students and their parents unhappy.

“It’s sending the wrong message out to the, to the students, and saying ‘Oh, if enough people hound on you, it’s okay to, just, you know, completely cave in,’” said Lilly’s stepfather Jesse Torres.

In case you’re interested in contacting Superintendent Murray, it looks like he can be reached via an “Ask the Superintendent” page on the district’s website. The site lists his phone number as 512-321-2292 and 800-247-5308. Watch KVUE’s report below.

—  John Wright

Students building Equality at Eastfield College

BUILDING EQUALITY | When Philomena Aceto, right, realized that Eastfield College had no LGBT organization on campus, she and another student decided to start one themselves. Judith Dumont, left, signed on as the fledgling group’s faculty advisor.

Snow delays start of Eastfield College GSA, but organizers say first meeting will be rescheduled

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

MESQUITE — Eastfield College was the largest of the area’s community colleges without a Gay Straight Alliance, according to student Philomena Aceto. But now Aceto is working to change that.

Aceto — whose partner is longtime activist Dawn Meifert and who has her own history as an activist — began working on her degree at Eastfield last summer. She met Kris Fleskes, another student, and they realized there was no representation for the LGBT community on the more than 18,000-student campus.

Other area two-year colleges have GSAs and campus LGBT alliances. Last fall, P.R.I.S.M., which stands for Promoting Respect In Sexual Minorities, opened successfully at Navarro Community College in Corsicana. The GSA at Richland College, the largest Dallas County Community College, meets twice a month.

“Let’s start one,” Aceto urged Fleskes.

Any campus group must have a faculty advisor but faculty cannot start a group themselves. So Fleskes and Aceto met with two Eastfield staff members, Judith Dumont and Kristie Vowels.

Dumont, former director of Youth First Texas, is now the faculty advisor for the new group.

When she began working at Eastfield last summer, Dumont said, she tried to make her office the safe space on campus for the LGBT community and indicated that by putting an HRC sticker and “proud ally” stickers on her door.

She said she cheered when the two students approached her about starting the GSA.

Aceto said Vowels told her, “You are exactly what we’ve been praying for.”

The group’s first meeting has been postponed twice because of weather. Aceto said that’s just giving her more time to promote the club in classes and on campus.

“I’m out preaching it every day,” Aceto said. “This isn’t about being gay. It’s about equality.”

To emphasize that point, they’re calling their group Equality.

Aceto said she’s has been running up against some resistance and a lot of indifference in an area she called one of the most conservative in Dallas County.

“We’re curious how the campus will receive us,” Dumont said.

She attended advisor training and said there was no reaction when she announced the name of the group she would facilitate.

“I’m hoping everything will be OK,” she said.

But Dumont agreed that the campus was very conservative.

“There were raised eyebrows on campus when I didn’t change my name after I got married in November,” she said.

Aceto said she would like to bring some interesting speakers to campus and produce some creative programming.

“We want to go after bullying,” she said.

Dumont said the group was important as a safe space not just for students, but for faculty, staff and administrators as well.

She said she’s already planning to participate in National Day of Silence. Last year, Dumont organized that event among students who are active with Youth First Texas.

Eastfield College was closed on Wednesday, Feb. 9, the most recent launch date for Equality. Aceto said the group would reschedule over the next week.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 11, 2011.

—  John Wright

Gay teens get their own Valentine’s Day dance; now they just need a photographer and a florist

LGBTQ youth in North Texas are getting their very own Valentine’s Day dance this year.

Chapters of the Gay Straight Alliance from five high schools in Dallas and Collin counties are coming together for the first-ever “Love Conquers All Ball,” hosted by LULAC #4871 and Youth First Texas.

The event will be from 7 to 11 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 12 at Youth First Texas, and a $2 requested donation at the door will benefit the Trevor Project.

Jesse Garcia, president of LULAC #4871, said all teens ages 14-18 are invited regardless of whether they’re members of GSAs — and regardless of whether they have dates.

Garcia also said organizers are looking for a photographer to take digital images of the couples, as well as a florist who can donate 50 to 60 flowers. Those interested in providing photography or flowers should e-mail jessegarciadallas@gmail.com.

A full press release is after the jump.

—  John Wright